There has been plenty of anticipation surrounding Michael Porter Jr.'s first season for the Denver Nuggets. After being sidelined his entire first season after recovering from a back injury sustained in college, Porter was considered either a great investment or a potential health risk that wouldn't make a meaningful impact. It was hard to make heads or tails of the situation since earlier in the season Porter was relegated to an end of the bench role, and would really only see the court during blowouts or if someone was injured. That is until recently.
Over the past week Porter's minutes have increased, and in the two games where he played 20-plus minutes, he put up 19 points against the Sacramento Kings and 25 points against the Indiana Pacers. Nuggets coach Mike Malone has previously said that Porter needed to earn his minutes, and lately his scoring has made it hard for Malone to keep him off the floor. This Nuggets team has incredible depth, and while it might be hard to find minutes for Porter on a consistent basis, it's something that absolutely needs to be done as he has shown over the past week that he's ready to take on a bigger role. Denver ranks 19th in the league in bench scoring, having Porter become a mainstay in the rotation would surely help with that as the season progresses. Don't forget, Porter was once considered a No. 1 overall draft pick before injuries derailed his college career, if he ends up reaching that potential the Nuggets will have hit the lottery.
Remember, these rankings will reflect a rookie's performance on a week-to-week basis, not the collective season, so these aren't Rookie of the Year standings. For a look at the previous rookie rankings, click. With that straightened out, here are the latest Rookie Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season.
Last week: Unranked
It was just a matter of time before Porter experienced a breakthrough moment for the Nuggets. It's been hard for him to receive consistent playing time thanks to Denver's deep roster, but over the past week, he's stepped up as he's seen his minutes increase. The best part about his play recently is how aggressive he's been playing. He's not shying away from shooting the ball, though sometimes that results in poor shot selection. He's displaying all the skills that made him a heralded prospect before he was injured in college. His jumper is going down smooth, and he's showing no fear attacking the rim and finishing through contact. If he keeps this up, he'll become a secret weapon for Denver come playoff time.
Last week: No. 2
At this point, Morant is heavily considered the Rookie of the Year front-runner, but as we're nearing the halfway point of the season it will be crucial for Morant to continue his development and not hit a rookie wall down the stretch. His turnover numbers are climbing a bit too high, in the game against the Kings where he put up 23 points and seven assists, he also committed seven turnovers, which is the most he's had all season. This season is about building chemistry and developing all the young players on the Grizzlies' team, but if Morant can't take care of the ball that will be difficult to do over the course of the season. His assist numbers have been great, and as he becomes an elite passer turnovers are expected, but the hope is that it doesn't become a trend and he can cut down on turning the ball over.
Last week: No. 7
What stood out about Washington's game this week is his movement around the floor. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, there wasn't a play where he wasn't constantly moving around the floor to fight for an open look or positioning down in the post. It resulted in a lot of cuts to the rim which ended with a handful of emphatic dunks or layups. On a couple of occasions the Cavs doubled Washington because no one could stay on him when he was moving around the floor. Sometimes it worked -- his rookie side was showing as he either forced up a shot or panicked and turned the ball over. As he progresses, he'll begin to learn how to deal with those situations.
Last week: Unranked
Each time White checks in to the game for the Chicago Bulls, he brings with him a bolt of excitement to this team and to the fans inside the United Center. You never know what you're going to get, which has been a bit of a problem with him throughout his rookie season. Some games White gives you an incredibly efficient 18 points while shooting 72.7 percent from the field, and on other occasions he goes ice cold. When he puts up an efficient performance, the Bulls end up winning. The next task is stringing together enough efficient games that it becomes his identity on the floor. It's also worth noting that White's presence on defense has been exciting to watch. Against the Milwaukee Bucks, he came away with a career-high four steals. He's been a positive on the defensive end of the floor on a Bulls team that surprisingly ranks fifth in the league in defensive rating (104.8).
Last week: No. 1
Morant might win Rookie of the Year, but Clarke is posting historic numbers as a rookie. He's shooting 64.4 percent from the field, and 45.7 percent from 3-point range. What's funny is that the biggest knock on Clarke coming out of college is that there were concerns around his shooting. He's athletic as they come and a plus-defender, but he didn't offer much outside of the paint, which, in the modern NBA is a big red flag for someone of his size. However, Clarke continues to prove everyone wrong as his shot just keeps falling from just about anywhere on the floor. He's not getting as many shots as his rookie counterpart Morant, but when he's getting his looks he's knocking them down. It takes a few years for young players to become consistent scorers and Clarke has started out the gate being just about the efficient rookie we've ever seen.
Last week: Unranked
The Washington Wizards beat the Miami Heat in the team's final game of the 2019 calendar, and if that's not enough of a shocker, they did it behind 28 points from rookie Garrison Mathews. Prior to that game, Mathews' previous career high was six points, and he's only played in a handful of games with the Wizards because he's on a two-way contract with the team. Mathews stepped up in the absence of Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant and Moe Wagner, and if he can continue to display this type of scoring prowess throughout the remaining time he has with the Wizards on his two-way contract, he could very well play himself into a contract with the team next season.
Last week: Unranked
With Karl-Anthony Towns and Noah Vonleh down, Reid got some consistent playing time off the bench this week, and showcased that he can be a serviceable backup center when needed. There isn't a more accurate representation of how the NBA has changed so drastically than watching Reid stand out on the 3-point line and hoist up 10 triples in a game. He's an undersized center at 6-9, and in his lone season at LSU he attempted 84 3s, but he wasn't knocking them down at a rate that constitutes shooting 10 in a game. The confidence is nice to see, however, it'd be nicer to see him use his size to drive to the rim to get a higher percentage shot.
Last week: Unranked
Culver had the best game of his career thus far against the Brooklyn Nets where he put up 21 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. With the Timberwolves dealing with a litany of injuries, Culver was slotted into the starting lineup this week, and while he cooled down towards the end of the week, he showed that he can score in a number of ways. When Culver was drafted out of Texas Tech, fresh off a national championship appearance, many thought that he could be an instant contributor for any team. He isn't lighting up the scoreboard like he did in college, mainly because the offense isn't running through him anymore, but if he can adapt to playing more off the ball he can become a solid bench guy for the Wolves.
Last week: No. 3
Nunn has had better weeks this season in terms of efficiency. Even when his shot isn't falling, he's leave an impact in the game through various ways. The advantage that Nunn has over other rookies is that he's on a team that is firmly considered a contender in the East, and he's surrounded by a number of guys above him on the totem pole that can rise to the occasion. While it's ideal for him to shoot better than 26.9 percent from beyond the arc, the Miami Heat went 3-1 this week, so until they start losing, Nunn's cold streak will go largely unnoticed.
Last week: No. 4
It takes an absurd amount of confidence to shoot a 3-point shot with your team down two points with six seconds left in the game against one of the best teams in the East, but Herro possesses that type of confidence and swagger. The entire play was truly insane. The fact that he could've driven to the rim after securing the steal, but instead circled back out and lined up a 3-point shot that send American Airlines Arena into a frenzy is something we'd seen out of seasoned veterans with multiple rings. After knocking down that shot, Herro just skipped down the other end of the floor mouthing "I do that," as if to say, "duh, of course it went in." Keep doing you Tyler, it's clearly working.